Which do you prefer: A system that always creates beauty or one that can reveal the ugly truth?

Which do you prefer: A system that always creates beauty or one that can reveal the ugly truth?
I go for constant beauty
42% (122 votes)
I go for unvarnished truth
58% (167 votes)
Total votes: 289

Reader "dr.d" asks: "Is it better to have a decent system that allows all recordings to sound good, or to have a system that might make some not-so-hot recordings no fun to listen to?" What's your preference, a system that always creates beauty or one that can reveal the ugly truth?

Heather Nicholls - Cary NC's picture

If it plays good music phenomenally, but shows me what the bad music is, than I would rather have the truth. Some of "you can't handle the truth."

Dismord's picture

Musicians aren't always wanting to sound "beautiful," whatever that is.

Lila's picture

I have an amplifier with distortion below .00024% @ 1khz @ full power ("preamp" has about .0005% distortion), and don't use anything less than CD quality. It does usually accentuate the differences between recordings but I haven't heard any music that sounds outright awful on it. I believe if it sounds worse, it's more about "how you hear it" or "how you prefer it to sound." My favorite amplifier would be the First Watt F2, it seems most dependent on the type of music, but has more potential to make music than any other I've heard, in my opinion. If I had to pick one and the F2 didn't exist, I'd pick "I go for unvarnished truth."

Dave's picture

I want accuracy, but with no added edge or glare.

Matt's picture

Because my system isn't something I'd listen to critically right now, I might as make it as good sounding as possible, while it lasts.

daveR's picture

The "unvarnished truth" may get you closer to a recording, but not a live performance.

Bob D's picture

This is a difficult choice, because most people's systems are somewhere in between. I've kinda moved away from the "truth at all costs" approach because I think it places more emphasis on the gear reproducing the music. So, for me, I'd opt for beauty over stark truth. Guess I'm getting old...

Olin in Portland OR's picture

I own a very modest audiophile system, one whose sins are of omission, not commission. Therefore, with few exceptions, most of my music collection of about 2000 classical CDs never are hideously, glaringly foul-sounding. So in choosing "unvarnished truth," I still get a great deal of "constant beauty."

Ole's picture

I don't want to hear the ugly, unvarnished truth all day. I want to enjoy listening to my favourite music.

Jens, Copenhagen, Denmark's picture

Let's face it: Many recordings contain great music but are tecnically flawed. For me, hi-fi is about enjoying music, so I prefer a system that lets me do that with real-world recordings. But, of course, it can get too smooth.

jeff henning's picture

Isn't the fi in "hi-fI" for fidelity? Of course, you guys are all about loving equipment and audio voodoo rather than truthful reproduction of the source, so this poll isn't unexpected.

G.C.  Van Winkle's picture

The Dynaudio BM6A studio monitors are ruthlessly revealing, the AKG K 701s even more so. I wouldn't have it any other way...

Stefano Lindiri's picture

I think that high fidelity is hearing what is recorded on the medium. We all have different tastes, but the search has to be in the direction of truth

Cihangir Güzey's picture

If a system has the ability to give you an option called "polishing," then it may be OK. So, if the material sounds harsh, not so good, then we push the button called "polish" to make the sound clean, free from defects (but it will not sound as original finally; opposite claim is just a bad lie). There is also noise reduction software to clean noise from the digital photos. You always lose data depending on your preference of the noise reduction amount. All fine detail is mostly gone. It is a personal choice. I like my whisky straight from the bottle (maybe with a very tiny amount of ice), my photos straight from the camera (with very little noise reduction if really necessary), like my music straight from the CD. It is my taste. I am happy with these options. However, nothing is wrong with the polished sound also. If you are happy with the sound, the mission is accomplished.

Brankin's picture

I want nothing or as little as possible added to the music by my stereo equipment. Anything added to or changed with the signal is distortion and not true to the music. I want a clear window view. Equipment that does not do that is junk, to me. But that's why there are different brands for our various tastes and beliefs.

Al Marcy's picture

Unless one has issues, the sound of music has little to do with the music.

xanthia01@gmail.com's picture

I think I prefer the truth. But that would depend on the day.

daniel's picture

Its like plastic surgery: if it is nice, why bother?

Nodaker's picture

I fall somewhere in between. I like the system to be truthful but probably not to the nth degree. If the music is unlistenable due to what happened in the studio should it be ignored altogether or relegated to the boombox? I say no, leave a little of the truth hidden and make it bearable at least.

Michael Lankton's picture

The problem with systems that are 100% revealing of the source is that: A) most sources are pretty flawed, and B) most of us don't have the bones to throw at a system where every component in the chain is transparent. I like music too much to quit listening to half of what I like just because the production values don't live up to my system.

Tim's picture

Beauty is in the ear of the beholder of course, but pure musical enjoyment is what hi-fi should be about, at the end of the day. If a ruthlessly revealing system makes one frown more often than smile, then resolution-for-the-sake-of-resolution has taken over from musical flow, natural bloom, and tonal coherence.

Gerry G.'s picture

Give me the truth. When the truth is good, it will sound amazing.

Walter Woody's picture

I take "constant beauty" as a "distortion" that can mask unvarnished perfection. While this means that all flaws are exposed; it is more than worth it when that perfect piece is discovered!

B.Parker's picture

Music should be a pleasure, if your system makes all your collection sound great, you are indeed very lucky.

Jeff in Oregon's picture

After 12 hours at work, the last thing I want is harsh sound.

Jim Cumbie's picture

I do this for pleasure, not to conduct a science fair experiment. If my system injects a little bit of distortion that makes my favorite recordings sound better, then I'm all for it.

Johannes Rickert's picture

A system with constant beauty can not sound real good since it is unable to reveal the things that make good recordings sound good.

Patrick Francis's picture

The truth. The whole truth & nothing but! Set it right it'll give you beauty when the engineer is up to it! But we audiophiles pride ourselves on revealing. That is beauty!

Lawrie Allen's picture

I've always preferred the truth in all things, but have always hoped for beauty.

Marino Marinkovic's picture

I want the truth!